ACLU: Patenting Abstract Ideas Violates The Constitution

(why not a patent for a crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich??? – promoted by pfiore8)

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend of the court brief today urging a federal court to uphold the denial of a patent that would, if awarded, violate freedom of speech. In the brief, the ACLU argues that Bernard L. Bilski is seeking a patent for an abstract idea, and that abstract ideas are not patentable under the First Amendment.

“The court must ensure that any test it uses in determining whether to award a patent is in line with the Constitution,” said Christopher Hansen, senior staff attorney with the ACLU First Amendment Working Group, who filed the brief. “If the government had the authority to grant exclusive rights to an idea, the fundamental purpose of the First Amendment – to protect an individual’s right to thought and expression – would be rendered meaningless.”


Privatizing damn near everything has long been the goal of the 1%ers and their lackeys in the Republican Party.

More from the ACLU on this:

In 2006, Bilski sought a patent for his idea that the weather risk involved in buying and selling commodities could be minimized if sellers had conversations with two buyers instead of one. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied his request and the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences affirmed the denial. Bilski appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the court has agreed to hear the case in a single joint session in May.

“Patent law prohibits the patenting of abstract ideas, but recently the courts and the patent office have been granting patents that consist essentially of speech or thought,” said Hansen. “If the government continues to allow patents of speech or thought it risks violating the First Amendment. No one can have a monopoly on an idea or prohibit speech on a particular subject.”


A link to the brief is here.

Because the patent at issue consists soley of speech or thought, the ACLU argues that it cannot be granted without violating the First Amendment.

We have seen how the privitizing regime has distorted patent law to the point that life, itself, is patentable:

You can’t patent snow, eagles or gravity, and you shouldn’t be able to patent genes, either. Yet by now one-fifth of the genes in your body are privately owned.

The results have been disastrous. Ordinarily, we imagine patents promote innovation, but that’s because most patents are granted for human inventions. Genes aren’t human inventions, they are features of the natural world. As a result these patents can be used to block innovation, and hurt patient care.

NY Times: Patenting Life

A dangerous wave of privatisation of all biological diversity is presently taking place under the label of ‘intellectual property rights’, i.e. patenting of plants, animals and individual parts of DNA.


Patenting allows industry to take control of and exploit organisms and genetic material as exclusive private property that can be sold to or withheld from farmers, breeders, scientists and  doctors. “Technology agreements” and fees on seeds deprive farmers of their generations-old right to replant and exchange their seeds. Vast, unsubstantiated patent claims on DNA deter scientists from research in areas that have already been “claimed” by big companies with large legal budgets. Patents on life create Bio-Piracy and a new form of colonialism: In the South, where most global food crops originate from,  freely available seeds and specimens are analysed by genetic engineering companies and then patented to be sold back at high prices to those, who originally maintained and developed these varieties over generations.

Greenpeace opposes all patents on genes, plants, humans and parts of the human body and regards the biodiversity of this planet the common heritage of humankind.

Greenpeace: Patenting Life

Progress marches on.  Stop thinking: someone else owns that idea.

I’m glad the ACLU is fighting this.  


Skip to comment form

    • TomP on April 8, 2008 at 19:54

    Patents are out of control.

  1. the US patent office has been out of control for some time now. The joke around the water cooler was about the granting of a patent for a crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

    Somethings are just simply in the public domain.

    • TomP on April 9, 2008 at 00:16

    Yummy patent idea.  Someone may be working on it already.

  2. Recent reforms in the patent laws have actually made patent law unworkable and irrelevant in the United States.

    Patents we used to file are not even considered today.  Instead the company goes through an extensive filtering system weighing value of the patent, costs and even if this public exposure of information is good or detrimental to company interests.  Well yea, it’s a cost benefit analysis, but it’s also supressed science.

    Like everything else it is about advancement of Satanic ideas above all else.  A sort of Bilderburg/Illuminati prime directive.

  3. who continue to be one of the few watchdogs that we have left.

    This law suit is just too weird.

    • Viet71 on April 9, 2008 at 00:58

    try to get patents on certain complex tax planning schemes, typically involving life insurance.

    Warning:  The schemes are all abusive.  Avoid them.

    In nursery tales, the wolf was always obvious.

    Today, not so.  He (less often she) may sit on the board of your favorite charity, be honored in your community, live in a big house, have two good-looking children, and wear $2,000 conservative suits.

  4. charge for it and give the money to liberals.  Hows that?

    No.  Okay.  Yeah it is “bad”, but isn’t it tempting?

  5. very nice article thanks… relly interesting 🙂

    No Prescription Needed

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